India's first monorail in red by Rs 159 crore in two years

India's first monorail here become an unviable venture notching a loss of Rs 159 crore (Rs 1.59 billion) in the past 26 months, besides a cost escalation of Rs 220 crore since the project was conceptualised, an RTI query has revealed on Friday.

According to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's (MMRDA) reply to the query posed by activist Anil Galgali, the first phase of the monorail between Chembur-Wadala opened on February 2, 2014 and till March 2016, saw 1.21 crore commuters travel on it, generating a revenue of Rs 9.24 crore.

"But, during the same period, the expenditure on operations and maintenance was Rs 168 crore, thereby leading to a loss of Rs 159 crore, or Rs 6.11 crore per month which is borne by MMRDA," said Galgali, citing the authority's answer.

Added to this was the project cost escalation to the tune of Rs 220 crores mainly due to poor planning.

Initially, the project cost was pegged at Rs 2,460 crore and the MMRDA already paid Rs 2,310 crore to the contractors, Larsen & Toubro and Scomi even before it was completed, Galgali said.

"Some 81 per cent of the funds have been disbursed, showing undue favours to the contractors," he noted.

The project completion deadline itself was extended five times - November 22, 2012, December 31, 2013, June 30, 2014, September 26, 2015 and now the latest August 19, 2016, when the second phase from Jacob Circle to Wadala is expected to be completed.

During the past 26 months, there were 10 accidents which led to six deaths and seven injuries, for which the MMRDA shelled out a compensation of Rs 36.50 lakh, recovered penalties of the same amount from the contractors and withheld Rs 50 lakh from their payments.

"The monorail is becoming extinct all over the world. But the politicians and bureaucrats have made a mockery of Mumbaikars by planning the monorail through a low-population area, mainly to facilitate some builders' lobbies," alleged Galgali.

He demanded an enquiry into the planning of the expensive project, which has helped builders and recovering the losses from those concerned to ensure such favouritism does not occur in future projects.

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